Genius – a missed opportunity

The ten part National Geographic drama of Albert Einstein started last Monday (in New Zealand).

I expected to have mixed reactions – and I did. There were some positives and some negatives. On the whole it was a credible drama, but not brilliant.

Science is hard to portray in drama and this production struggled. On the whole, gimmicky portrayals of sunbeams and visual tricks of space left me somewhat cold, as did the rather clunky insertion of scientific language in the middle of everyday conversations, the worse of which was the gratuitous sex scene at the beginning. I get why the makers did it – shock the viewer at the start, strip away the old world view of Einstein with a sexier more true to life rendition of him and his affairs – but really – the first scene of him in the drama is him shagging his secretary against the blackboard and wiping his equations off the back of her dress afterwards? Please. For me, the weaving of the science into the everyday needed more work and better crafting.

Where the drama worked better was when it stuck to the drama. Jonny Flynn’s portrayal of the young Einstein was excellent; in fact, in many ways was more convincing than that of Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of the older Einstein, which to me appeared rather hackneyed.

The first episode of Genius left me feeling as though it was a bit of a missed opportunity. The telling of the science and the real life older Einstein could have been more nuanced, which would have made the show more seamless and more compelling.

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